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December 8, 2018

Federal ministries yet to proactively disclose information

National

December 8, 2018

PESHAWAR: A study recently released by a civil society organization revealed that majority of the federal ministries and institutions have failed to proactively disclose information as per the provisions of the Right of Access to Information (RAI) Act 2017 and their online presence remains low with the exception of the Finance Ministry that scored the highest points of 61 percent.

The study conducted by the Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives (CPDI) on the status of online proactive disclosure in federal ministries and institutions show poor web presence with insignificant proactive disclosure of the information related to public matters.

The previous PML-N-led federal government seemed to be least bothered to implement the RAI Act. It did not establish the Federal Information Commission even though it had enacted the law in the final month of its five-year term.

The PTI government has established the Federal Information Commission and also appointed an able team of commissioners to make it functional.

However, the culture of secrecy is still prevailed at all the federal departments and institutions, which are not adequately facilitating the information seekers.

The common set of missing information is related to budget and expenditures, perks and privileges of officers, decision-making processes and investigation or inquiry reports.

The finding of the CPDI study shows that the compliance with proactive disclosure as laid down in the RAI Act, 2017 is very low in the public sector departments and institutions.

Moonus Zahra, programme coordinator of the CPDI, told The News that they had evaluated the online presence of federal ministries and institutions against the criteria set under Section 5 of RAI Act 2017.

Section 5 provides a set of information and documents that every government body is bound to disclose proactively in the larger public interest.

“We considered 30 websites as a sample and ranked them out of 90 points. Additionally, we also evaluated the status of online proactive disclosure in Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Sindh; whereas the Balochistan Freedom of Information Act 2005 lacks provisions on proactive disclosure of information by government departments,” she informed.

Mentioning major findings of the study, the CPDI official stated that the Ministry of Finance was at the top with 61 percent of online proactive disclosure. She said the second, third and fourth positions were secured by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) with 57 percent, Cabinet Division 56 percent, Ministry of Inter-Provincial Coordination 54 percent and Ministry of National Food Security 52 percent, respectively.

On the scale of online proactive disclosure, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting was at 46 percent and proactive disclosure of the information by the Ministry of Human Rights came to 32 percent. The National Assembly is also reported to have only 33 percent of proactive disclosures.

The lowest ranking websites on proactive disclosure measure include Ministry of Communication with three percent and Prime Minister Secretariat with eight percent. The Ministry of Railways has disclosed 10 percent of its data online.

The common set of missing information is related to budget and expenditures, perks and privileges of officers, decision-making processes and investigation or inquiry reports.

In entirety, the federal ministries and institutions have performed poorly in complying with the proactive disclosure clause of RAI Act, 2017.

Amer Ejaz, Executive Director, CPDI, hoped with the Federal Information Commission in place the operative measures would be ensured for the implementation of the RAI Act and proactive disclosure of information. He said that institutional transparency and proactive disclosure was the final frontier of the Right to Information movement.

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